Scripture parks the cart at Field 3 for the next round of 25 targets. The firing is brisk, each man yelling "Pull!"—or in Scripture's case, grunting "Yeuhhmph!"—firing and reloading. Shooters change stations five times per round; the various stations, combined with the 72 angles in the "fan" of the trap launcher, simulate the unpredictability of real birds rising from the brush. Spent shells surround the shooters; target fragments litter the field.
Scripture misses three targets in this round. "I'm not shooting anywhere near my potential now," he says, returning to the cart. "It's the same as golf. If a guy wants to be a good tournament shooter, that's got to be his first priority."
Guiding the cart to another field, Scripture pulls up behind four burly adults and a curly-haired kid in jeans and T-shirt who is barely a hand taller than his shotgun. The boy is Scripture's 13-year-old son, Jason, vacationing from Virginia Beach so he can embarrass his elders. "I really believe Jason's gonna be an outstanding shooter," his father says. "He's already won a couple of major handicaps. Shot their asses off." He watches approvingly as his son shatters 24 out of 25 targets. "Of course, he doesn't know what pressure is yet, 'cause I'm paying for everything. He's just farting around."
As shooters gather around him and exchange gun talk, it's plain his reputation as a teacher has followed him from baseball. "He can teach anything," says Cynthia Sutton, a young woman who has just come off the firing line. Scripture shrugs off the compliment. "Teaching is such a simple damn thing. I've never understood why people in baseball have so much trouble with that. You must slow it down, break down the mechanical motor skills, then you put it back together."
He learned that lesson first in the Orioles farm system, playing for managers like Cal Ripken Sr., Joe Altobelli, Darrell Johnson and Billy DeMars. The lesson was reinforced at the Royals' short-lived but innovative Baseball Academy in Sarasota. Scripture studied and taught baseball fundamentals there alongside the late Charlie Lau.
"I loved the Academy environment. Charlie and I sat and talked for days, watched tapes, broke everything down. That's what made him such a great batting coach." Scripture stops the cart. "Baseball would do well to make sure they have the best people at the rookie league level. That first manager makes a hell of an impression on those kids."
It's Scripture's turn to shoot again, and this time he hits all 25 targets. After he returns to the cart, an obvious question arises: Which is the easier target, a baseball or a clay pigeon?
"Well, I tell ya," he says, reaching for a cigar, "I can hit these, and I couldn't hit a curveball, so these must be easier."
Couldn't hit a curveball?
Although he played five seasons in Triple A, Billy Scripture never had the proverbial cup of coffee in the majors. "It was an effing struggle to play," he concedes. "The ball always fell a foot short." His lifetime average was .252.